Spirit of Place
Things have moved on and winter has become a memory - time for a new project involving the National Trust and their ‘Spirit of Place’ initiative via Craft NI.....
In Northern Ireland the National Trust looks after some of the most iconic places in this region – from the newly launched Giant’s Causeway (perhaps where the famous Belfast Giants Ice Hockey Team found inspiration for their name - or was it from the mythical hunter and warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill?) to NI’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard.
Roughly one third of the region’s coastline is also cared for by the Trust as well as some 40 square miles of countryside. This includes some breath-taking places such as Rowallane near Belfast – famous for its gardens – and Castle Coole where my first weavery workshop was housed in the property’s harness room in the stable yard. And Crom Castle - a magical inspiring place with its ancient yew tree, incredible waterscapes and a favourite spot for Anna and Claire’s DREAMING PLACE project – log onto www.dreamingplace.com to find out more about how the land dreams!
So, the National Trust needed local arts and crafts workers to come up with a collection that reflected the spirit of the Trust and the local surroundings. I submitted images and samples of a small range of scarves: classic hand woven linen and cotton, a more exuberant colourful range and also some tweedy, soft merino.
In early April I trekked in the early hours by bus and shanky’s pony from Fermanagh to the National Trust’s headquarters at Rowallane House for a more in-depth meeting. The refreshing, early spring walk upto the house, with intriguing eye-catching ‘installations’ made up for the fact that my interviewer did not turn up due to unforeseen circumstances! The NT were mystified, apologetic and hospitable treating both me and a fellow interviewee to a coffee and space to exchange news and views in the cafe.
Recently another meeting was fixed and things were almost finalised. My work would be on sale in the shop in the grounds of Florence Court House - this is also a most beautiful, stunning place to visit at all times of the year.
I briefly worked in the education department at this house and had some interesting experiences. As part of one particular day’s work we dressed up as ‘below stairs’ house staff each taking on a different character. I was a housemaid.
Getting into character, hanging about with my feather duster in the great hall with the old gilded oil portraits gazing down and before the other ‘staff’ turned up, I found myself answering a knock at the main front door. Inching it open I found a class of wide-eyed youngsters gazing up from the steps. Amazed to see a real live maid from the early 1900 ‘s complete with duster, long apron and laced up brown boots, the children, their class teacher and myself were momentarily stunned into silence. We immediately ‘caught ourselves on’ and the conversation went something like this….
“Now young woman is your mistress at home to visitors?” primly quizzed the teacher.
“No, m’lady ain’t receivin just now”
“Very well. We shall stroll in the pleasure grounds and return at a more appropriate time”.
From the children, “Miss miss, do you work here? Is it hard work? Can’t we come in?”
A hasty ‘hush girls and boys’ from the teacher…
Curtseying, “Thank you mam” I had to shut the door as the other staff were gathering in the hall. The group moved away, all of us still rather stunned and them visibly bursting with curiosity! A wonderful few seconds that I had never ever imagined I would experience.
Look on this link to find out more about Florence Court
The ‘Spirit of Place’ initiative is almost up and running and soon, hopefully my hand woven scarves will be in the property's beautiful shop...watch this space!